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The Bloody Murtherer, or, the unnatural son his just condemnation

Monmouthshire, 1671

Extracts from the original pamphlet (pub. London, 1672) (those with access to Early English Books Online can view the full digitised text there). Original pagination in square brackets.

[p.1]

The Wicked Life, Horrid Murther, and Penitent Death of HENRY JONES

Although the unhappy times we live in, (which may not unfitly be termed the very rust of the iron-age) are too pregnant with sad instances of prodigious crimes, and unparallel'd villanies, men striving with a cursed emulation to out-vie each other in wickedness; And that crying scarlet-sin of murther so overflows (like a torrent) almost in every street; That it seems to many but a piece of gallantry to stab at the majesty of God by killing and destroying man, his image; yet shall we seldom meet with any impiety, swell'd to that height in all circumstances, as this which at present hath engaged our pen. An action that at once infringes all bonds of gratitude, and obligations of humanity; and violates the tyes of nature as well as the dictates of grace; so strange and lamentable, so cruel and execrable, that it needs no flourish of words, or epithets, to render it odious, but is in it self so transcendently abominable, as it is uncapable of being aggravated by any rhetorick; for who hears [2] of a mother wilfully murther'd by her own son, but his senses startle, and his heart is instantly brimful of horrour and indignation. The perfect narrative of this deplorable fact, with its concomitant circumstances, we undertake, nor out of prejudice to the deceased malefactor, who having partly satisfied the law, by yielding up his body to death here on earth; hath (as we hope, and have no weak grounds to believe, as shall appear in the sequel) obtained a pardon also of Almighty God for such his grievous sin, that his soul may live for ever in heaven. Nor do we publish it to gratifie their liquorish fancies, who delight in hearing strange stories, or to furnish the already too talkative world with more vain discourses; but to the end, that the readers observing herein (as in a chrystal mirror) the variety and violence of the Devils temptations; and the allurements of sin, wherewith these poor creatures (the authors and actors of his horrid butchery) suffered themselves to be seduced with the miraculous detection, and severe punishment of the same; Nay, by the terrors thereof be for the future retained within the lists of charity towards men, filial respect and duty towards their parents and superiors, and (which includes all) religious obedience towards God and his commandments: And I hope the world (wicked and insensible as it is) hath not yet so totally renounced and abandoned all vertue, [3] piety and prudence, as not a little by these examples to reflect; and imitate the wise and skilful pilot, who mourns to see the rocks whereon his fellow-voyagers have suffered ship-wrack; and yet again rejoyceth, that by the sight thereof he may avoid his own; Lastly, that we may all admire the riches of Gods grace, which denies not to receive the vilest and most crimson sinners, whenever they with a sincere and hearty repentance make their addresses to his throne for mercy and forgiveness.

The principal actor in this barbarous tragedy was Henry Jones, the son of Thomas Jones, late of Monmouth in Southwales, and Grace his wife; parents miserably unhappy to bring into the world so ungrateful and unnatural a wretch, that justly came to suffer an ignominious death, for bereaving her of life, from whom he thus derived his own: It were no less injury to truth, then affront to the countrey of his nativity, should we deny him to be by descent a gentleman, his father being a person of a competent estate, and good repute in those parts: But alas! what a sorry and contemptible glory is it, to bear only the empty names and painted coats of generous ancestors, whilst we by neglecting the imitation of those vertues that first made them eminent, disgrace their memories, and commit actions more vile then the basest of the plebeian rabble.

[4] His provident father considering, that no quality does more adorn or embellish then learning, took particular care to have his greener years seasoned with the rudiments of literature, which one would have thought should have served him for the more regular conduct of his future life; and rein'd him in from such matchless enormities; But learning alone, without being grafted on a stock of good natural parts, and watered with the dew of heavenly grace, is commonly not only barren of happy fruit, but very dangerous whilst it puffs up its empty-headed possessors, and makes them self-will'd, conceited, and temerarious in their undertakings: He was no sooner arriv'd to that age, which loyally (though not always truly) entitles us to discretion, but he was freed from the tyranny of the rod and ferula, and articl'd with an attorney; an imploy not unlike to continue and thrive, since pride, fraud, malice, revenge and contention do daily increase amongst neighbours. But - -

Ludit in Humanis divina Potentia rebus
We fondly to our selves great things propose, But their events 'tis heaven alone that knows.

Whilst his careful and indulgent parents feed themselves with hopes of his rising by the law; 'tis (alas!) his destiny most wretchedly to fall by it; He wore out his five years tearm with his master, without any thing worthy of [ ] unless we shall say, that by keeping debauched [5] company, learning to drink, and other extravagancies too frequently practised by some, (I had almost said in the seducing age, by most) young clerks; he then laid a foundation for the sad superstructure of his succeeding life, and that his ruine may perhaps not amiss be calculated from thence-. After the expiration of his said tearm, he continued for some times in London, making addresses and courtship to several women; but not succeeding herein, and his father being lately dead, leaving him some estate, though it seems, not enough to satisfie his boundless desires: He thereupon returns hom to Monmouth, and married the daughter of a Glocester-shire gentleman, with whom (as 'tis reported) he had a competent portion; and one that (had it stood with the decrees of providence) seem'd to deserve a better match, since fame gives her the commendable character of vertuous and discreet: But since marriages are first ordained in heaven before they are consummated on earth, 'tis equal vanity in any that have submitted their necks to that yoke, to murmur and complain: As 'tis for bowlers, when they have made their cast, to cry, either rub or fly: Heaven to some gives agreeable and happy consorts to assist and support their weaknesses, to others lewd and unequal yokefellows, for the trial of their patience: The first have reason to applaud its mercy in hymns of thanksgiving; the last, to evidence their own [6] obedience, by a cheerful submission in the discharge of their duties.

The old gentleman his father, being very tenderly affectionate towards his wife, and having other children for her to maintain, left her at his death an estate of about 100 l. per ann. for life, that was afterwards to descend to the said Henry her son, which brings us directly to the occasion that first excited this inconsiderate wicked young man to the horrid thoughts of murthering her. He found this rate of living, above what his estate or practice of law, (which he followed in the country) could maintain, and would often be borrowing money of his mother, somtimes pretending one urgent occasion, and then another, which she, like a kind mother, for several times very readily supply'd him with.

At last, finding by his often requests her small exchequer would soon be exhausted, and that he wasted it vainly and profusely, she grew more reserved, and less free to part with her money, which put him into a rage: and the devil takes hold of the opportunity to mind him of 100 l. per ann. to come to him after her death, and suggested, that she liv'd too long: hereupon without fear of God, or regard to his soul, he like an unnatural villain, entertains thoughts of sending her out of the world; hellish thoughts and infernal resolutions! which will not [7] only strangle those that embrace, but confound all that hearken to them: he consults about this bloody business with his will, not his conscience: with his wicked heart, but not with his precious soul: His faith is so weak towards God, and so strong with the devil, that he will not retire with grace, but advance with impiety: His wilde youth hath no regard to her reverend age, nor hath all the blood that streams in his veins power to prompt him that 'tis derived from hers, which he goes about most inhumanely to spill: he is hellishly resolved on the matter, and now proceeds to the manner of her tragedy: He proposes to himself several ways for to murther her, and the devil who is never absent on such hellish occasion, makes him as well industrious as vindictive and implacable in the contriving and finishing it: At last, having a servant, a boy of about fifteen years of age, named George Bridges, the son, as is reported, of a butcher, he resolves to make him his confederate and confident in this black design, whereupon preparing him with fair words, obliging him to secrecie, with horrid oathes and imprecations, and tempting him with a promise of five pounds in money, and a new suit of cloathes for his infernal service in the business; he discovers to him his intentions of killing his mother, and engag'd him therein: But she seldom going forth they knew not how to bring [8] about their wicked purpose, though for a moneth together they waited for an opportunity. At last he inspires them with a stratagem, which took effect to all their ruines. This wicked son and his young villain privately steal several sheaves of corn out of a barn his mother had in the fields, not above a quarter of a mile distant from Monmouth town, and carry them down to a small wood, about two furlongs beyond the said barn, on a riverside call'd Munnow, being a place designed for executing their inhumane villiany [sic]; having thus laid the train, and spread his nets for the life of his innocent mother, this graceless son on Wednesday, the eleventh of October last past, (like a cursed hypocrite) under the officious and specious pretences of care and diligence, invites his tender mother to her own bloody funeral, coming and acquainting her, that she had certainly lost corn out of her aforesaid barn, and that he had often told her so, but she would never beleeve it; but now he could make it appear, if she would be pleased to go with him thither, and that she would do very well to look after it: Hereupon through his much importunity she condescended and went with him towards the evening in her slippers to the barn, where seeing corn scattered towards the afore-mentioned wood, he told her it was gone that way to his knowledge; for (says he) if you go but a little [9] further, you shall find several sheaves of your wheat, which she yielding to, came to the wood-side, but was very unwilling to go in, till by his intreaties she was prevail'd upon; and, according to his stories, found indeed several sheaves, but meets also with a death no less cruel then unexpected; for as she was stooping to take up some of the ears of corn, and rubbing them in her hands to see whether they were thresh'd or no, this graceless, inhumane, and unnatural wretch, her son, attended with his aforesaid confederate George Bridges, who had waited on them thither, discharges a pistol at her, from which she received a mortal shot, with a slug or loget, in the right side of her head, about an inch above her ear, the slug remaining in her head; the wound was found, when prob'd, by chyrurgions to be about six inches in length; she falling down, they for the present left her; but fearing, it seems, they had not completely done their work; about two houres after they return, and though one would have thought the direful reflections on what they had done, might have rais'd in them a consternation, and the ghastly spectacle of a murthered mother, touch'd and somewhat mollified the obdurate heart of this wicked son: yet contrariwise, so little were they dismay'd thereat, and such small impression could this woful object make on their savage spirits, that these sons of darkness fell afresh to their bloody banquet, (it being then about 9 of the [10] clock the same evening) when the amazed and blushing sun had withdrawn it self far enough from beholding so foul and barbarous an action; and then the young assassinate, George Bridges (young indeed in years, but old in wickedness) steps on the bloody stage to present the second act of this most lamentable tragedy; for doubting she was not yet quite dead, and her soul fully dispatch'd into the other world; this young son of Belial, George Bridges, with a knife cuts her throat, making a transcision about five inches long, clear through the great artery and jugular veins; and (as 'tis credibly related) this imp of hell, a stranger to grace, and rebel to nature, scoffingly told his master on that horrid occasion, That his mothers throat cut as tough as an old ewes: and here 'tis observable how these two wretched creatures could be so hardned in wickedness, and bold in villany, as to have the impious courage to return unto the place and person where they had so lately committed such an abomination; for although their guide and conductor the black prince of the air, assisted them with the obscurity of night, yet every bird and bush might, methinks, have strucken terror in their conscious souls, and they might by time have reflected on what they had don, and consider'd they had been hatching cockatrice-eggs, and weaving the spiders web. But God was not in all their thoughts, and the divel had lull'd the feared consciences into a lethargick slumber not to be awakened but with thunder, their thoughts were wholly thoughts of blood, wasting and destruction [11] were in their paths, which in short time fell on their own heads; this being done, the son then took from her what money she had about her (reported to be about 5 li. enough to pay the villain his promised reward that assisted in her murther) and several rings off her fingers, which providence after order'd partly to discover it; then they endeavor'd to drag her dead body to the before-mentioned river Munnow (hard by the wood-side) but it prov'd too heavy for them, or on I know not what other considerations, they at last left it neer the place where they did the fact; the boy went to the farm-house of his slain mystriss near the wood, & the son home to her house in Monmouth, who coming to the door, gave a little rap with his fingers, his sister Mary who stay'd up for him, presently let him in (as 'twas afterwards prov'd against her at the Assizes) & that night wash'd his bloody clothes: Next morning early, on Thursday Octob. 12, a poor woman of Monmouth going into this wood to gather some sticks, saw this dead body, and approching neer, found it to be Mrs. Jones whom she well knew, and therupon returning back, acquainted the magistrates, that in such a wood lay such a person murther'd, on which they went to the house of Mrs. Grace Jones, and found her son Henry in bed, and told him they heard his mother was murther'd; he made strange of it, and seem'd to be much troubled at it: but going with the townsmen to the place where his mother lay dead, by her was found several footsteps, and measuring the feet of them that were present, they found those footsteps to fit the feet of Henry Jones, and suspecting him to be concerned, they charged him with the murther, [12] and had him and his man before two or three Justices met for that purpose, who examin'd first the boy, and then the master; the boy confess'd that his master shot her in the head, and the master said the boy cut her throat; and so the one impeach'd the other. After this, the daughter M. Jones was taken into examination, suspecting her to be guilty with her brother in this murther, not only for beating of the little children for crying, and making enquiry for their mother, but for washing her brothers bloody cloaths, and endeavoring to conceal her mothers death; yet some friends thinking her to be innocent became bail for her, & she went at liberty; but within five or six weeks after she made her escape from Monmouth, and was gone several miles towards London, which the bail hearing of, she was pursued, apprehended and carried back again, where she was committed prisoner till the next Assizes, together with her brother and the said George Bridges. After Mr. Jones's commitment, several able ministers went to visit him, viz. the reverend and learned Dr. Goodwin minister of the town of Monmouth, Mr. Pollington minister of Newland, and Mr Betham minister of Whit-church, who used their most strenuous endeavors to make him sensible of the heinousness of his sin, with which from the first moment of his being taken into custody, he seem'd to be extremely affected: besides these, one Mr. Jackman minister of Newent sent a letter of advice to him, which being full of excellent matter, we should not discharge our duty, if we did not publish here verbatim, as followeth ...

[22] By the labours of the aforesaid ministers, and the repeated perusal of this pathetical, soul-searching, heart-melting letter, it pleased the great God in infinite mercy, to give this desperate malefactor a sense of his most dangerous state, the grievousness of his sins, and the necessity of a Christ to preserve him from the jaws of everlasting destruction, henceforward, he was very little concerned for his body, or the pains of death it was to suffer; but extreamly sollicitous about the affairs of his soul. He was often bewailing his sinful heart, and the errors of his life; how much time he had wretchedly wasted in the devils service, and how little he had now to spend for Gods glory and his souls advantage, he was very diligent in reading the holy bible, and good books, and very frequent and fervent in prayer, some forms of which (we conceive) for the assistance of his memory, were found after his death, in writing, in the prison, which take as follows. ... [a series of prayers follows, also Jones' notes from his bible]

[40]... In this manner this penitent malefactor passed [41] the time in a very sorrowfull and religious frame of spirit, for about half a year in prison, untill the last Assizes for Monmouth, the seventh of March, last past; at which time being brought to his tryal, out of consideration (as 'tis believed) to save his estate for his wife and child, whereof she was there ready to be delivered, he would not plead to the indictment, but stood mute, and thereupon had judgment to be pressed to death, a sentence that carryes with it so much of terrour, that we think it not improper to set it down, with the reason thereof, as one published by that grand piller of your law, the learned Lord Cook, in the second Book of his Institutes, in his comment of Prim. Westm. Cap. 12. ... [the standard account of the circumstances of being pressed to death is given, followed by a 'Case of Conscience' affirming the illegitimacy of refusing to plead]

[45] ... But to proceed in our narrative, the same way that was appointed for putting the before-recited terrible sentence in execution March 11 last, he writ to his wife as followeth. ...

[49] ... After this, being brought into the place where execution was to be done, which was in a cellar belonging to George Sadler the goaler. After several pious and devout ejaculations, he spake to the spectators to this effect;

'That he came very willing to suffer death, since [50] the crimes he had committed were so odious both in the sight of God and man: That he acknowledged he no longer deserved to tread on the face of the earth, or to look up to heaven; That he had been a very wicked liver from his youth up, and that the burthen of his sins would be much more grievous to his soul, then the weight that was to press his body to death, had he not a firm belief, and assured hope, that his blessed saviour would preserve him from sinking under them, whose promise it is, Come to me all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give rest to your souls: He exprest himself deeply affected with the sense of his guilt, in drawing in his boy to be a sharer in the horrid act; he exprest himself now in charity, and reconciled to all the world, but his wicked self: He confest it was covetousness and extravigancy, or rather covetousness to maintain extravigancy, that first put him upon this wicked act of murthring his dear and tender mother, he wish'd that all the world might take warning by him, not to get a habit, and live in a custom of sinning, though only in things which we count little things, and venial escapes, lest thereby they provoke the justice of God to give them to commit some great and monstrous wickedness as he had done, and thereby brought himself to this untimely and infamous death. Finally, he desired all that were present to be earnest with God in his behalf for mercy and acceptance in Christ Jesus, that he might be patient in the pangs of his sufferings, and receive [51] everlasting consolation, whereupon a godly divine there present, made this ensuing prayer.' ...

[54] This prayer ended, the prisoner kneeled down and prayed near a quarter of an houre softly by himself, and then was put into the press, which whether it were not made convenient for that purpose, or whether for the detestableness of his crime, it was intended he should suffer the rigour of the law, I know not, but certain it is, That he lay therein almost two days and nights before he was dead; and yet endured it with that courage and patience, as became one that was sensible his sins deserved infinitely more grievous torments, or rather one that had the assurance of faith, that his sins were washed away in the blook of Jesus; and that he was going to take possession of joys unspeakable and endless, ravish'd with the apprehension thereof, he could not only go through, but welcom the greatest pains that in this world could be inflicted.

George Bridges his unhappy servant stood his trial, was found guilty of the murther, and condemned to be hang'd, which was accordingly executed on Saturday, March 16 last past. He seemed very sorrowful and penitent, and confessed he did cut his mystriss's throat after she was shot...

[57] As for Mary Jones, though she from first to last protested her innocency, yet it being proved, not only that she stay'd up for her brother that fatal night the murther was committed, but that very night washed his bloody clothes, beat the children for enquiring after their mother, and since endavoring to flie for it, all which was testifed, with several other circumstances, by two credible witnesses, she also was hereupon found guilty as consenting to the fact; and condemned to be burnt.

Which sentence was executed the same day that the boy suffered, viz. Mar. 16 she being drawn along with him on a sledd, and burned at a stake nigh the gallows: She to the last insisted on her innocence, and gave certificates thereof to several persons under her own hand, with most solemn protestations; and begged of the Lord on teh day she was to die, that he would please to shew some sign or token to clear her to the world, which some will have to be answered by the stubborn horses refusal to go on with the sledd when she came against the church, going to the place of suffering; the falling down of part of the church wall then, a strange meteor and storm, with I know not how many other prodigies: but wiser men judge all these to be but raised stories, or at best, forced observations of some melancholy and credulous heads: 'Tis certain, her sex, youth, and vehement denial of being privy to the fact, were very powerful advocates to plead for pity in the spectators breasts, whose tears at her death seem'd [58] almost enough to quench the flames she was exposed to, she said not much at the stake, but what tended to declare her innocency in the particular fact charged, though having bin a grand sinner, she acknowledged she had otherwise duely deserved the worst she could suffer. And concluding her discourse with a protestation, that she freely and heartily did forgive all the world. ...

[59]... Which words being ended, the executioner (with a flaming torch) sets fire to the straw and faggots, and in less then an houre after, her body is there consumed to ashes.

[62 (incorrect numbering)] Thus have we traced our bloody murtherers into the other world, where we charitably leave them all to the mercies of a most righteous God, who we may observe in this example doth often punish one sin with another: a wild dissolute course of living engages this unhappy young gentleman in covetousness and unjust greedy desires after hismothers rightfull estate, to supply his extravagancies; These unlawfull desires tempt him to trample on and violate all laws of nature and grace on earth and heaven; And with barbarous hands to murther her whom in duty and affection he was bound to obey, honour, and with the hazard of his life preserve; Thus lesser crimes draw on and prepare us for greater, for when we first forsake God, no wonder if he abandon us to our selves and our sins, and the fruit thereof calamity, misery, infamy, and perdition; Wherefore since we see humane (or rather such inhumane) cruelty is ever met with and punished by divine justice let us fly their crimes that we may avoid their punishments, reassuming our reasons and recalling our wandering thoughts from hell to earth, purposely to elevate them from earth, and fix them on heaven, and consecrate them and our souls from sin to righteousness, from Satan to God, that so we may piously live and peaceably die in this world and gloriously reign in that which is to come.

F I N I S


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